Is a Vineyard summer still a good time to catch up on your reading? It’s clear that the slow-dancing summers of the Kodachrome era have been replaced by the hustle and bustle of social media. The past two pandemic summers should have prompted a return to the days of literary recreation, but they felt more like flurries of masked activity. Frankly, there are so many people on the island that even the ferries can’t keep up. So what about this? Instead of attacking traffic and hyperventilating about high gas prices, let’s make a move to get back to the books!
Last summer, when I read John Hough, Jr.’s latest novel, “The Sweetest Days” (Simon & Schuster), I was bowled over by a pivotal and shocking scene from the novel which involves a pregnant high school girl. Already accepted by Bryn Mawr and considering becoming a lawyer, she makes the difficult decision to have an abortion. It was 1964 and abortion was illegal in this country. (If you think you’ve heard this story before and can imagine what happens next, trust me, you can’t.)
“The Sweetest Days” comes out this week in paperback, 49 years later Roe vs. Wade and less than a month after the famously leaked Supreme Court draft ruling reporting that a majority of justices voted to overturn deer. Not to mention a week after Oklahoma lawmakers voted to make abortion illegal during fertilization.
Hough’s book spans decades, but this section takes place when abortion was illegal, before it was legal, before the flight, before Oklahoma. I contacted Hough via email and asked him to write about a young woman who makes the decision to have an illegal abortion. He has answered, “I have tried to show, as I have always believed, that an abortion is not easy, even when the woman feels strongly that she must have it. There is doubt, even guilt. I have also tried to show that abortion on the sly, even when the provider is competent, can be very dangerous.
Hough will join us at Islanders Write for the Pitch Panel, where five writers will have the opportunity to pitch their books to industry professionals, and those of us in the audience can listen and learn.
We are thrilled to have E. Lockhart join us at Islanders Write for the first time this summer. Lockhart’s fascinating first novel, “We Were Liars” (Delacorte Press), which takes place on an island off the coast of the vineyard, was a runaway bestseller. His latest book, “Family of Liars” (also Delacorte), which is a prequel to “We Were Liars” and also takes place a short boat ride from Edgartown, has claimed the top spot for the past two weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Lockhart will be part of a roundtable focused on sequels and prequels.
And congratulations to Philip Weinstein, a retired English teacher known to many Vineyard enthusiasts for his lessons in the classics, on the publication of his latest book, “Soul-Error.” (The Humble Essayist Press). “Soul-Error” is a kind of memory; it’s a book of personal essays with a philosophical bent in which literary characters come and go, much like friends, family, and summer guests do. Weinstein will be part of a panel discussion focusing on non-traditional memories.
As we count down to the MV Times Islanders Write event, which begins Saturday night July 30 and runs through July 31 and August 1, event producer Kate Feiffer will send out weekly dispatches from the table Writers.
For more information on Islanders Write, visit islanderswrite.com.